Anything but Les Miserables
Shiny tap shoes were my footwear of choice from the age of three when I received my first pair. Pale pink ballet shoes were a close second. Fourth grade promised the first pair of sleek, black jazz shoes that accompanied private musical theater lessons, and when I finally went en pointe, I was so excited that I thought I might die. Seriously.
At one time our three sons dreamt of being in the NFL. As a child I longed for little but singing and dancing on Broadway. I danced in the Nutcracker and at Caesar’s Palace. I memorized every show tune available while practicing the choreography from Flashdance.
I still have a crush on New York City. En route to do ministry in the Big Apple in the late nineties, God rerouted me to Denver where I met Rich. At least once a month, I remind my dear husband that someday, ‘we’ want to spend a year in the city that never sleeps doing ministry by day and visiting Broadway by night. We joke, but it’s really not a joke.
So last night when we went to see Les Miserables on our date night, I was prepared. I’ve seen it in New York. Rich and I saw it together in London. I love the story. I know several of the songs by heart. We lived in France for almost five years.
But I was blindsided.
Every single one of my senses was stirred, and I was slayed. I cried buckets of tears. I squeezed Rich’s strong hand until mine hurt. At home, I stayed up well after midnight reading everything the critics had to say about the screen adaptation. I woke up and talked to Rich. I called my mom. I talked to friends. I called my mom again. I’ve been trying to figure it out all day. Then, in the middle of my weekly Target run, it hit me.
I am Jean Valjean.
I love to help people and want my life to count. I love other people’s kids. I don’t mind sacrifice. There are parts of my story I would like to forget.
I am Fantine.
I would do anything for my children. Anything. I have had a broken heart. I have been lonely and betrayed.
I am Cosette.
I have known the doting love of a faithful father. I have been courageous, brave and vulnerable. There are mysteries that I would like to unearth.
I am Tholomyès.
I have taken advantage of the heart of another. I have caused pain and been careless.
I am Javert.
I am more comfortable with rules. I crave order. Justice feels fair. In the deepest recesses of my soul, I don’t always believe I can be forgiven. Sometimes, I want revenge.
Each and every character of the movie is me. I connect with their depravity as much as their holiness. Like Javert, I want the law to make everything clearer. But it just doesn’t work that way. As I reflected on Valjean’s terrifying journey through the gruesome Parisian sewer to rescue Marius for Cosette, I was reminded that Christ carried me through the sewer of my own darkness into the glorious light that comes from clinging to Him for dear life, not a set of rules.
Last night our local movie theater became holy ground as Hollywood retold Victor Hugo’s beautiful story. The God of love unexpectedly showed up on the big screen through music, the language dear to my heart, and whispered to me that I do not have to live under the law. He is there for me with grace each day.
Translated into English, Les Miserables means The Miserable, The Wretched, The Poor, or The Victim. But the characters of this story really were anything but. They ultimately could not venture to a place so far or so dark or so lonely that grace would not eventually meet them. Likewise, Christ patiently waits for us to surrender so that He can transform us into the person that we were always intended to be. It is not a Hollywood adaptation, it’s God’s eternal truth. Christ came choosing grace. Choosing love. Choosing sacrifice. Choosing me.
And that makes me anything but miserable.